Slain French gendarme compared to Joan of Arc

Arnaud Beltrame, the French gendarme who died saving hostages’ lives at a supermarket siege last week, was given a state funeral in Paris.

In tribute to Beltrame, President Emmanuel Macron made reference to Joan of Arc, members of the French resistance and others who had died for the country.

Beltrame, who was a devout Catholic, had volunteered to take the place of a female hostage being held by the suspected Islamist gunman Radouane Lakdim.

The 25-year old gunman had already killed three people.

“It [his heroic sacrifice] was the gesture of a soldier and a Christian. They were both totally combined in his life and you cannot separate one from the other,” his widow Marielle said.

She said Beltrame was “profoundly attached to what he called the ‘gendarmerie family’ for which he didn’t count the hours, or his engagement.

“He knew how to unite his men, to give them their momentum, to enable them to give the best of themselves.

“He was motivated by very high moral values, the values of service, generosity, giving oneself, abnegation.”

According to news reports, Beltrame and his family were not regular Mass attendees when he was a child.

He is said to have gradually returned to the faith after joining an international military pilgrimage to Lourdes in 2006.

After experiencing “a personal encounter with Christ” at the age of 33, he joined a catechumenal programme in his parish near Paris.

Baptised as a child, he made his first communion and was confirmed in 2009.

“I was always astonished at official ceremonies because he did not hesitate to take communion even though he was in uniform,” said parish priest Father Marie-Bernard Seigneur.

Seigneur remembers Beltrame as a discreet Christian who attended Mass on Sundays or Saturday evening at a local retreat centre and often visited church to pray during the day.


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